IF you ever wondered why car manufacturers are rushing out SUVs look no further than the latest offering from Kia, in the handsome shape of the new XCeed.
Underneath, and under the bonnet, it's basically a modified version of the company's current Ceed five-door hatchback but you'll be asked for around an extra Â£2,000 if you want an XCeed instead.
That brings a slightly larger car but, much more importantly, one with the styling vibe of an SUV.
Or, in the case of this new Kia an ‘urban crossover', the car industry's way of describing something a bit chunkier than a hatchback but not quite as butch as a full-on off-roader.
You might expect a typical XCeed buyer not to worry over the difference but simply fancy the newcomer's looks. Kia thinks so many will be won over that the XCeed will soon take half of all sales in the Ceed stable.
As that already comprises Ceed hatch, Ceed Sportswagon and ProCeed five-door ‘shooting brake' that sales potential marks a triumph for looks over outright practicality and will have the number crunchers in Kia Towers smiling at the swelling of the bottom line.
Kia buyers must already fancy the SUV scene as they make the bigger and dearer Sportage the best seller in the UK. The Ceed range sits some way back in second place, but will be boosted by the newest arrival.
Built in Slovakia on the same production line as other Ceeds, the XCeed arrives in the UK with prices stretching from £20,795 to £29,195 for a thoroughly well equipped First Edition, with 138bhp 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and seven-speed auto gearbox as entry level.
This 1.0-litre XCeed does with one cylinder less and pushes its 118 petrol fuelled horses through the front wheels (as they all do) via a six-speed manual gearbox.
That's the two petrol engines accounted for (with CO2 figures stretching from 124 to 142g/km) but there's also a diesel on offer, although expected to take no more than about 23 per cent of sales, mainly to company car users and available with either 114 or 134bhp from its 1.6 litres. Emissions are predictably less than the petrol siblings and as low as 109g/km.
There is, of course, a saving on fuel bills, with 52.3mpg average on the new and tougher official test compared to 45.6 and 40.9mpg with the smaller and larger petrol engines.
A lower emissions plug-in petrol/electric hybrid XCeed is promised early next year with an all-electric range of around 37miles.
To adapt this slightly taller newcomer to the Ceed family to its role in life the suspension has been softened front and rear and something called hydraulic rebound stoppers added to the front shock absorbers with the intention of reducing larger suspension shocks and sharpening the steering response.
There is a new dynamic damper in the rear cross-member with the aim of reducing road noise and vibrations in the cabin. So Kia took the development of the XCeed seriously.
Hard to tell, though, how successful these out of sight changes have been over a selection of the best and worst road surfaces a British drive can produce. What you couldn't help notice was the way the car rode with more aplomb on the smaller (16-ins) alloy wheels of the cheapest grade XCeed compared to the lower profiled tyres and bigger (18-ins alloys) of posher versions.
Kia doesn't usually stint on spec and even entry level Grade '2' XCeeds come with cruise control, air con, keyless entry, space saver spare, auto lights and electric windows all round.
Grade '3' adds things like larger alloys, sat nav, dual zone climate control, heated front seats and steering wheel, privacy glass, auto dimming rear mirror and parking sensors.
Top First Edition models go the whole hog, with heated outer rear seats, glass sunroof, powered tailgate, automatic parking facility, eight speaker JBL sound system and extra safety systems, including forward collision avoidance upgraded to spot cyclists and pedestrians who don't notice the car approaching and puts the brakes on for you.
Driving behind all three engines over a busy testing day the XCeed emerged as a solid feeling machine with a no-nonsense approach inside (lots of black plastic, but nicely soft and obviously well put together) and with enough space for a quartet of adults - five at a pinch - and a boot that is perhaps a little shallow but whose 426 litre of load space (1,378 with rear seats folded) will cope well with family duties.
The most expensive 1.4-litre First Edition and its auto gears felt less lively than the manual 1.0 three-cylinder, even if the stopwatch would show otherwise (124mph/9.2 seconds to 62mph versus 115mph/10.9 seconds) and used a little more fuel on its outing, with 41.2mpg against 49.0mpg.
The diesel did best of all, of course, with 60.4mpg as compensation for its higher initial cost. It also pulled itself along with barely more noise than its petrol powered stablemates and with perfectly respectable performance - 122mph and 10.2 seconds to 62mph.
For me, the honest charm of the least expensive XCeed won the day, its gentler ride and nimbler feel out-gunning the added features of the dearer siblings. Don't expect they'll sell many of them though, with style and kerb appeal ruling the day this time.